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Increase in intern and training places announced

By Catherine Reilly - 22nd Mar 2021

Concept of global medicine and healthcare. Doctor holds digital tablet. Diagnostics and modern technology

An increase of 120 medical intern posts, plus a small number of additional postgraduate training places and permanent fellowship posts have been announced by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

However, a campaign group called ‘Intern Jobs for Internationals-Keep Our Doctors’ has stated the increase in intern places is insufficient. “So proud all of our campaign has achieved, but we will not stop until all Irish-trained medical graduates have the right to become intern doctors in Ireland. With rising Covid numbers, do we really want to risk patient safety by skimping on medical staff?” stated the group on Twitter this morning (@KeepOurDoctors_).

According to a statement from the Department of Health, the Minister is “committed to increasing the medical workforce and this approach is a positive step as it offers more opportunities for training doctors, including those at a senior level”.

Minister Donnelly “has agreed that a permanent increase in intern posts cannot be considered in isolation and the full journey of postgraduate training needed to be considered to ensure alignment with medical workforce planning and the next steps in postgraduate training pathway”.

The Minister commented: “I am pleased that we are now in a position to significantly increase the medical training places in a more permanent way that is aligned with workforce planning and the future needs of our health and social care services. As we are coming out of the third wave of Covid-19 and the focus will return to the challenges of our health service, there needs to be a focus on the continued recruitment of senior doctors to meet demands.”

The Minister has agreed the following measures to “support postgraduate medical training in Ireland”.

  • An increase of interns for July 2021 to 854 places
  • Introduction of a period of overlap of one week between exiting and incoming interns
  • Establishment of 12 de novo training posts
  • Conversion of 40 non-training posts to training posts
  • Permanent establishment of 40 post-certificate of satisfactory completion of specialist training (CSCST) Fellowships

The measures are estimated to cost approximately €11.4 million over the next two years with €4.4 million to be funded in 2021.

HSE Chief Clinical Officer Dr Colm Henry said the HSE is committed to increasing training posts while “reducing our reliance on non-training posts and we will continue to work towards this goal through appropriate increases in the number of intern and postgraduate training posts in line with medical workforce requirements while ensuring training capacity, supervision and standards are maintained”.

These increases in approved postgraduate training posts are in addition to the already approved increase of 114 training posts in postgraduate training programmes for the July 2021 intake.

According to the Department, the 40 fellowship posts were announced as a once-off measure last November but have now been permanently established.

The introduction of these permanent fellowships will bring the expected number of post-CSCST fellowships opportunities in Ireland up to approximately 55 per year. 

Over the next number of months, the HSE will be undertaking a formal review of the number of intern posts and postgraduate training positions “to ensure the number of intern places are in line with future medical workforce planning requirements of the health service”.

As part of this review, the clinical sites where additional intern posts are most needed will be considered to ensure that the current configuration “provides the most efficient and educationally appropriate model”.

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